Directed by: Bryce Mongillo
Written by: J. L. Jackson
Starring: Liliane Laborde-Edozien, Chloe Berman, Eric Paul Erickson, David Neff, Varda Appleton, Greg Couet, Nick Bishop, Chris Petrillo
Short Film Review by: Chris Olson
A young woman called Summer takes it upon herself to investigate the death of her friend Leila, only to discover that her passing is linked to a violent and brutal underworld of narcotics. As the police carry out their own questioning, in particular Leila’s dad, more violence could ensue if those responsible are not found and if the authorities do not catch up with Summer’s own formidable investigation.
Perhaps more televisual than cinematic, Dark Tunnel, written by J. L. Jackson and directed by Bryce Mongillo, is told using a narrative that is complex and interwoven like the cream of the crop of TV crime mysteries. It brings to mind the scandinavian dramas that have entertained audiences for the last few years, whilst tying in the thriller suspense of a short film running time, creating a largely compelling atmosphere. An atmosphere which is enhanced by the fluid editing of Jackson and the comprehensive music by Matthew Schwartz. The storyline is fairly familiar, but the ensemble cast do a decent job of lending credence to the proceedings.
The plot is typically incoherent, keeping the characters and criminal underworld a vaguely painted menace until the final third where all becomes clear. More time needed to be spent with Summer to depict her hurting so as to allow the audience to understand her motivations more and become fully engaged with her campaign for truth and justice. The sequences where the father is interrogated by a mostly inept police force are well filmed but strangely ineffective, creating a frustration for the audience who are just as eager to crack on and hunt the true villains as the dad.
The lead performers were solid, portraying believable characters that were motivated by a tumultuous catalyst and emotional turmoil. Some of the officers felt unconvincing, running through a routine that failed to grasp the emotional depth that Summer’s scenes were.
Capitalising on genre TV and short film structure, Dark Tunnel does well to engage its audience in a tense and propelling story that is bleakly layered and well acted, it at times melodramatic. It unfortunately fails to break free of the confines set by so many precursors but does well to operate within them and deliver something entertaining.